A mood to fight is growing throughout South West Trains, where I work as a guard. Bosses are not satisfied with the £31.7 million profit they announced towards the end of last year and are launching an assault on jobs.
Some 660 new job losses are planned, on top of 480 already announced in January. These are primarily aimed at ticket office clerks, cleaners, platform staff and revenue protection inspectors – the lowest paid full-time staff on the railway.
At the same time the company is increasing dividends for shareholders by 33 percent. It has raised revenue with a draconian penalty fare system and introduced successive above inflation annual ticket price increases.
The government decided that the train operating companies couldn’t simply do away with these jobs point blank.
South West Trains announced their solution, the very next day – they would replace the full-time jobs with part-time staff on barely a third of the hours.
When the RMT rail workers’ union sought an agreement to control these numbers the bosses refused. This will allow them to inflict further job losses through the back door in future.
All RMT members at the company are being balloted for industrial action. The ballot closes on 17 March.
Already the bosses have begun muddying the water, suspending an entirely separate negotiation over pay only a few days before the ballot begins.
Activists believe they are trying to pressurise undecided workers not to strike.
We cannot allow this attack on workers to continue.
The mood that we’ve had enough and that we must fight back is coursing through the platforms, concourses and depots.
Coordinated strikes planned on rail
Successful ballots of RMT union members at South West Trains, National Express East Anglia, First Capital Connect and London Overground could see coordinated strikes at the three companies.
Workers at National Express East Anglia are balloting against the loss of 300 jobs while those at First Capital Connect are fighting plans to reduce the opening hours of 40 ticket offices, which will hit jobs and the service.
RMT members at London Overground are balloting over a breakdown of industrial relations. All of these ballots end on 17 March.
Meanwhile, 7,000 TSSA union members at Network Rail are balloting over threats to introduce a “two-tier” pension scheme. The ballot ends on 23 March.